Garrett (garote) wrote,


The film "Melancholia" lets the audience spend some time with a woman whose life is corrupted by episodes of severe depression. Depression is depressing to watch, but thankfully the film has more going on: An inevitable apocalypse in the form of a gigantic stray planet on a collision course with the Earth, which all the characters including the woman must reconcile themselves with as the clock runs down. It's a handy metaphor because, like clinical depression, it comes from outside our world, and quickly becomes more influential than everything in it.

It occurs to me that the certain knowledge of everything we know coming to an inevitable and swift end is never actually very far from the truth; because even if the entire universe around us carries on after our deaths, it does so beyond our reach. To each of us as individuals, the expectation that our present deeds will have any lasting impact is ultimately an act of pure faith - totally beyond all direct verification, and bound instead to whatever materials and ideas we can hammer into our surroundings while we still draw breath.

That faith is more fundamental than any Western religion can touch. To get a decent view of it you need to dip into Eastern philosophy. Set the future - the "later" - aside ... instead you need to disassemble and then rebuild your idea of "now". It's utterly removed from concepts like judgement and piety. I find it a visceral exercise that tends to scrape away a lot of the things I've been constantly pressured to worry so much about. Success, victory, proper social appearances, fear of being foolish, the desire to build a résumé of accomplishments to justify my individuality and age, to place myself higher in the rankings of the stylish and the clever... A rat race. A vexing distraction.

Besides, I've already done - and nearly forgotten about - so many things that I would be an ass to demand more.

Not that I plan to stop...

But that's the thing. At my age, it cannot anymore be about building a résumé. A person who does neat things and contributes to the building of neat things is something to be, not something to finish with. And the being is about now. Sure, the world will end, and it's lights out after my death one way or the other, but it can't be about packing up my suitcase at the end of my run and saying, "yep, I sure did some stuff there". Oh no. It's about being here. In the way I want, for as long as now lasts.

I am very fortunate to have arrived at this now. Staying in it is a worthwhile challenge.

About depression:

Depression seems to proliferate in family or social situations where there is a large unspeakable truth being suppressed that everyone is better off knowing about and dealing with. It proliferates further, and takes deep root, when that unspeakable truth has been forcefully and desperately shoved out into the open by one person, only to be violently suppressed again by another. The force seems to build up, and then becomes free-floating, a condition divorced from its justified cause, a tsunami that can be triggered by any number of unremarkable ripples far out to sea, when there is massive stress pent up in the Earth below. And it drowns everything and is almost impossible to stop.

How can one locate the stress below, when the symptom seems to come from anywhere? How can one redirect the forces at work, when the necessary tools are being constantly washed away? When those who would help are threatened by drowning?

Some people will drag damaging secrets all the way to their gravesite, only to have them spill out anyway as their clenched bowels relax in death. Their suppression is your oppression, and they will drag you along, unless you pry their claws from your hide, by making the truth a piece of casual furniture in your daily life independent of their behavior. Generally this means you need to get away. Get far away; far enough that you can learn how to carefully slip through the tsunami of depression in your own style like a pelican cuts through the crest of a wave, and work hard to silence the echoes of the disapproving and angry voice you've internalized from your malefactor. Your only hope is continental drift - you need to slowly grow a new skin beneath the waves, a meter at a time, until the stress begins to abate.

Who gets the chance to do this? It certainly doesn't come free. Assuming you know what you have to do, you still have to fight for it. And often you have to wait until you're an adult, and can emancipate yourself from the horrors creeping around in your adolescence.

I count myself lucky to have had the privacy and the time and the support to regrow so much of my own inner terrain. I've been told that "life begins at 30", and I believed it at 30 because I felt totally committed to the adventure of my career and home. Five years later I realized it was, of course, more complicated than that: Life is the series of rounds and chapters that it's always been, and there really is no telling - for better or worse - where you will end up. What your heart will embrace - and what it will bleed to death upon.

Unspeakable truths have to be spoken regularly. They have to be watched carefully. They have to be handled gently.
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